2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze

Toronto, Ontario – Gas prices have certainly taken a turn for the worse recently, and it’s entirely possible that, as the saying goes, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” One solution to ease the pain, and one that may become even more prominent in future, is fuel-miserly versions of some existing automaker’s models. At Chevrolet, that’s the Cruze Eco, which I drove on a day-long event north and east of Toronto.

Through a mixture of aerodynamic tweaks and powertrain modifications, the engineers were able to bring the Eco’s published fuel figures down to 7.2 L/100 km (39 mpg Imp) in the city and 4.6 (61) on the highway with the six-speed manual transmission, and 7.8 (36) city and 5.1 (55) highway with the six-speed automatic. That 4.6 on the highway is equal to some hybrids, the company says. By comparison, the non-Eco Cruze LT and LTZ models, which come only with an automatic, are rated at 8.5 (33) in the city and 5.5 (51) on the highway.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco. Click image to enlarge

The Cruze starts with a base LS trim level that uses a naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre four-cylinder. At $14,995 with manual transmission it’s a low buy-in, but its engine is less powerful and thirstier than the powerplant used in the other trim lines. Those are led by the Eco, followed by the LT and LTZ, all of which use a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder making 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. The forced-air system isn’t for go-fast performance, but to provide larger-displacement power with smaller-engine fuel figures. It also runs on regular-grade gasoline. The Eco can be optioned with a six-speed automatic that’s the only gearbox choice in the LT and LTZ, but the default transmission, and the one I drove throughout the day, is an Eco-specific six-speed manual whose three top gears are overdrive. To further get the petrol-pinching principle across, sixth gear is marked on the gearshift knob with a little green circle.

Pricing for the Eco commences at $19,495 with the stick shift; add another $1,450 for the autobox. The entry price is the same as for the LT trim line, which comes only with an automatic, and which is equipped fairly the same as far as features go. Paul Hewitt, GM’s product manager for the Cruze, says the pricing pretty much matches up when you consider the cost of the aerodynamic improvements on the Eco versus the standard-equipment automatic transmission on the LT. The Eco includes such items as lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires, air conditioning, ten airbags including front knee and rear seat sides, electronic stability control, heated mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, satellite radio and express-down windows, with express-up for the driver as well.

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